I recently finished reading “The Art of War“ for a second time. The book in itself verses on tactics, strategies and concepts related to war. However, today it is recommended for and applied to several fields, from politics, to business management and sports.
The first time I read it I was fresh from having completed an MBA and soon joined the strategy department of Airbus Military, the company I work for. I then took an interest to it from the strategy point of view. However, this time I wanted to read it framing myself from the teamwork, communication and leadership point of view. I found it again, a very enjoyable and useful read.
The book is attributed to Sun Tzu, a Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher who lived in the ancient China (544-496 BC). The version I read is a Spanish translation (by Alfonso Colodrón) from the English translation by Thomas Cleary. If you’re an avid reader of business literature you’ll probably have found some quotes from the book. The ones I remarked this time from the point of view I approached it (the emphasis and comments between brackets are mine):
If you are careful of your men, and camp on hard ground, the army will be free from disease of every kind, and this will spell victory.
Peace proposals unaccompanied by a sworn covenant indicate a plot. [think of inter-departament relationships]
If there is disturbance in the camp, the general’s authority is weak. [indecision]
The sight of men whispering together in small knots or speaking in subdued tones points to disaffection amongst the rank and file. [engagement]
Too frequent rewards signify that the enemy is at the end of his resources; too many punishments betray a condition of dire distress. [rewards vs. engagement; purpose; self-realization]
To begin by bluster, but afterwards to take fright at the enemy’s numbers, shows a supreme lack of intelligence.
He who exercises no forethought but makes light of his opponents is sure to be captured by them.
If soldiers are punished before they have grown attached to you, they will not prove submissive; and, unless submissive, then will be practically useless. If, when the soldiers have become attached to you, punishments are not enforced, they will still be useless. [reminded me of Jack Welch and the need to discriminate]
Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look upon them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death. If, however, you are indulgent, but unable to make your authority felt; kind-hearted, but unable to enforce your commands; and incapable, moreover, of quelling disorder: then your soldiers must be likened to spoilt children; they are useless for any practical purpose.
Take a look at the book. It can be read in no more than one afternoon. Depending from what perspective you take you will draw some conclusions or others. Some passages will not relate much to your current situation, but several others will.